Religious Educator: Perspectives on the Restored Gospel


Daniel H. Olsen


Sacred Space, Michael MacKay, Mormonism

Document Type

Book Review


When I was asked to read and review Michael MacKay’s Sacred Space: Exploring the Birthplace of Mormonism, I was expecting to read a straightforward history of Fayette, New York, the story of the founding of Mormonism in Fayette, and the efforts of the LDS Church to purchase and restore the Peter Whitmer Sr. home where, Church members have been told, the Church was organized on 6 April 1830. However, I was quite surprised, as I imagine most Church members would be, to read that the location of the establishment of Mormonism is highly contested within some Mormon history circles. Some historians, following the work of Michael Marquardt and Wesley Walters in their book Inventing Mormonism, believe that the church was organized in Manchester, New York, at Hyrum Smith’s log home. Other historians, as well as LDS General Authorities, claim that Fayette is the correct location of the founding of the Church. The purpose of MacKay’s book, then, is to “address historical claims that the Church was not established in Fayette by taking a close look at what the existing documents tell us” (18) by “revisit[ing] and reinterpret[ing] the relevant source material” (17) used in this Manchester-Fayette historical debate in light of new documentation from the ongoing Joseph Smith Papers Project. In other words, MacKay attempts to defend the argument for Fayette being the location of the formal organization of the LDS Church.